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Editor’s Note: Open door for more Michigan teachers

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Democrats and many in the education establishment have made much ado about the recent legislative provision that allows uncertified teachers to teach in Detroit Public Schools.

This option, tied to the $617 million DPS bailout, is now law, and it simply says the district can hire teachers that bring expertise in other fields — without having to go through time-consuming and often expensive alternative teacher certification courses. That hasn’t stopped strong pushback.

“Some districts have the best and brightest teachers, but we’re now allowed to have uncertified teachers,” stated Rep. Brian Banks, D-Grosse Pointe Woods, about the DPS provision. “Our school kids deserve the same things as kids in Holland and any of these other Republican districts.”

But this concept is not just something Republicans want to force on Detroit. Several GOP lawmakers have introduced bills that would offer similar flexibility to all Michigan schools. Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, sponsored a bill last year that loosens restrictions to alternative certification, with the clear intent of enabling more people with strong work experience to offer their expertise in the classroom. This bill passed the full Senate in November but is stuck in the House Education Committee.

Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, has taken the idea even further with his bill, which much like the DPS provision, would allow uncertified teachers to teach without alternative certification. His bill, introduced in March 2015, is similarly sitting in the Education Committee.

Alternative certification programs have exploded nationwide the last two decades, with roughly 20 percent of teachers taking this route. As the National Council on Teacher Quality has found, the education schools which once feared alternative certification have largely co-opted the process, meaning the quality issues with standard programs are now reflected in alternative ones. Michigan would be smart to push the subject, and give schools more tools to hire experts in a variety of fields.